Something about Café Degas makes dining there feel as if you're on vacation. No other restaurant makes it so clear how interwoven with France our food culture is. Time seems to go by more slowly. You may as well have another glass of wine. The crowd that dines at Café Degas is hip enough that the kitchen doesn't hesitate to serve offbeat groceries. A great way to begin the meal is to split a board of pates, cheeses, and smoked fish. These cold assortments are very French and light, too, served amply enough to almost make a lunch unto themselves.
The longest-running and most Gallic of our growing population of French bistros, Cafe Degas is unique both in its environment and kitchen. The dining room, while fully air conditioned, is in fact outside, on a deck. The menu is a modest catalogue of country-style French cooking, with a few New Orleans accents. It's easy to be charmed by the place, and wind up lingering longer than you originally planned.
The restaurant is named for seminal French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas, who lived for a time in New Orleans not far away from the restaurant. It opened in 1980, a collaboration of Jacques Soulas and Jerry Edgar, who had in mind the cafes of the French Quarter, but in a different setting.
A tin-roof-covered deck surrounded by awnings (they're lifted when weather is nice) gazes onto the little park across the street and into Esplanade Avenue's big live oaks. Even when awnings are down, the place has an outdoor feeling, although the temperature is reasonably well controlled.
Never come here in a hurry. The service and undersized kitchen move at a slower than average pace, but that works in the tout ensemble. Sunday brunch here is as good as it is popular, which is very. Remember that they're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.